The Reaper in the Room

Two remarks I recently came across.

(1) Being unable to cure death, wretchedness and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things. – Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 133.

(2) Ernst Kantorowicz, discussing the palpable contrast seen in funerary rites between juristic theories of the immortality of the king’s dignity and the mortality of his natural body:

In short, one revelled in strong contrasts of fictitious immortality and man’s genuine morality, contrasts which the Renaissance, through its insatiable desire to immortalize the individual by any contrivable tour de force, not only failed to mitigate, but rather intensified: there was a reverse side to the proud reconquest of a terrestrial aevum. At the same time, however, immortality–the decisive mark of divinity, but vulgarized by the artifice of countless fictions–was about to lose its absolute, or even its imaginary, values: unless it manifested itself incessantly through new mortal incarnations, it practically ceased to be immortality. The King could not die, was not allowed to die, lest scores of fictions of immortality were to break down; and while kings died, they were granted the comfort of being told that at least “as King” they “never died.” (The King’s Two Bodies, 437)

I suppose the trope is perennial, the human attempt to avoid and divert itself from its own mortality, but these days nothing represents to me this custom so much as the endlessly renewed but disposable constituents of the celebrity pantheon.